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Environment

The Surprising Reason Why So Few Canadians Have Electric Cars

If you want to live sustainably in Canada, it’s a lot easier to power your home with renewable energy than it is to drive an electric vehicle.

That’s because the country gets 66% of its electricity from renewable sources, but electric cars are hard to come across and the infrastructure that supports them is underfunded, according to a new report by Clean Energy Canada.

Of the 97 electric vehicles available in the world, just 27 can be bought in Canada, Canada Auto News reports. The most popular electric car in the country is the Chevy Bolt, but it takes about eight months to get one, the publication notes.

As a result, less than 1% of all cars sold in the country are electric.

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The lack of availability reflects neglect from the auto industry, weak government support and incentives, and consumer misconceptions.

There are currently 1,200 electric charging stations throughout the country, which can charge one to two cars at a time, Vice reports. As a comparison, Canada has 12,000 gasoline stations that can refuel eight to 12 cars at a time.

As a sign that government investment makes a difference, 97% of Canada’s electric vehicle sales take place in the three provinces where cash rebates for such purchases are offered, Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia.

Read More: Volkswagen Says It Will Make Every Single One of Its Cars Electric by 2030

Quebec is going one step further — the province plans to require all car dealers to offer electric vehicles by 2018, Canada Auto News reports. Ontario, meanwhile, is mandating that all new buildings have electric car chargers beginning in 2018.

Tesla Model SImage: Tesla Model S

But these provinces are outliers. Generally, incentives are few and far between and this has translated to dealers skimping on electric vehicle, Clean Energy Canada argues, which leads to the long wait times for the one-third of Canadian consumers who are interested in buying one.

Further, the financial benefits of electric vehicles aren’t widely known, according to  Chantal Guimont, president and CEO of Electric Mobility Canada, who spoke with Vice. Although the price tag for many electric cars can be high, the cost of charging is minimal and electric engines don’t require upkeep, which leads to cost savings over time.

Elsewhere in the world, some countries are investing heavily in electric vehicles. In Norway, for example, more than one in three cars sold are electric vehicles, and countries from the UK to China have announced plans to ban gasoline powered vehicles, signalling broad government support for electric cars.

Read More: Norway Just Proved That a Future With 100% Renewable Energy Cars Is Possible

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Canada could also learn from its neighbor to the south. The US has 10 times as many charging stations and plans to establish new charging stations every 50 miles across 25,000 miles of highway in 35 states, Clean Energy Canada reports.  

“As part of a climate and clean growth plan, the Canadian government needs to do the same and invest in EV fast-charging stations along highways throughout the country,” Merrin Smith writes in the report. “Fast chargers along key transportation corridors will put prospective buyers’ minds at ease and boost the odds that their next vehicle is electric.”

Canada’s federal government is beginning turn a corner. In 2016, $62.5 million was spent on electric vehicle infrastructure and billions are being spent on revamping public transportation, according to the government.

Read More: Canada Just Appointed an Expert Panel on Climate Change to Help the Country Adapt

In recent years, the country has become a leader on climate change action. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has taken a leading role in the Paris climate agreement and the government plans to cut carbon emissions by by 30% in 2030 from 2005 levels.

Since 20% of its greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector, investing in electric vehicle infrastructure seems to be essential to reaching its Paris climate agreement goals.

And as Dan Woynillowicz, policy director at Clean Energy Canada, told Vice, the benefits go beyond keeping climate change in check.

“The electric car revolution will create huge opportunities in mining, in auto-parts and auto manufacturing, in cleantech — areas Canada excels in,” he said. “An ambitious and strong strategy could make Canada a global EV player, while also reducing pollution.”